By Shane HandlerFebruary 27, 2012
If the guys in Austin’s White Denim really looked as retro cool as the band name suggests, you’d expect to Strokesish 2002 era leather jackets, cigarettes dangling and some tight jeans strapping below their mop tops. But upon looking at the Gibson hollowed body guitar strapped to front-man James Petralli, these Austin guys are certainly more instrumental substance over style. It’s no wonder that Jeff Tweedy took a liking to them at last summer’s Sasquatch, eventually getting them to open for Wilco on their January/February tour.
On their second trip to the Phoenix area in one month, having just opened for Wilco in Tempe, White Denim, played a short one hour set to cap their road-work in support of 2011’s D.
And since D
is only 37 minutes long, it was welcoming that the Crescent Ballroom performance was an hour in length. Also it was a good night out on Valentine’s Day, seeing a no-fluff guitar rock band in a spectacular venue, always keeps it real for those of us don’t buy into the Hallmark holiday.
Just like D
does on record, White Denim delivers in the lives setting, as the four piece has jam-band elevated chops, particularly those of guitarist Austin Jenkins stand out as textured, versatile and graceful. Petralli’s voice is a dead ringer of a mix between Jim James, M Ward, and Nathan Willett of the Cold War Kids, giving White Denim a sense of urgency and edge. With garage rock production, psychedelic rock nods and jazz guitar flourishes, White Denim go for instrumental acrobatics instead of a lightweight punchy keyboard riff so often seen in today’s indie scene, particularly on "Bess St." The hard charging “Is and Is and Is” got the best reaction from the crowd as it provided the guitar heroics of a late 70’s Rush album. As they concluded with the frantic “I Start to Run” from 2009's Fits
– Petralli ran around the venue in circles high fiving the few sticking around– keeping it real with the unpretentious rock White Denim excels at.